A regional political journalist has highlighted the “alarming” level of control that spin doctors have attempted to exert over the regional press in the course of the general election battle.
She said reporters had been prevented from asking more than one question during campaign visits while emails asking follow-up questions had gone unanswered.
Her comments come on the back of a series of snubs to regional papers which have led to accusations of “disdainful” treatment by senior politicians.
Wrote Rachel: “No reporter expects a warm welcome from politicians on the prowl for votes. That said, the control exerted over the regional press during this time has been alarming.”
She recounted a visit by Chancellor George Osborne to Newcastle in which reporters were told they could ask one question each.
“I was last in the go-round so pushed my luck by asking a second question, as did one other reporter, much to the annoyance of his press officer,” said Rachel.
“The press officer said she understood, jotted down her email and told me to send her additional questions, a phone interview having been ruled out, for some reason. This email was not acknowledged until 11.35pm, almost 12 hours after the interview and well past our newspapers’ deadlines.”
On another occasion last month, David Cameron visited the Icon Plastics factory, in Eaglescliffe, to support Stockton South Tory candidate James Wharton.
Wrote Rachel: “I was asked to email six questions the night before, then on the day was put in a pool of six reporters and given just two questions. No follow-ups.
“I was, again, told to email additional questions. Press officers assured me a week later they were “still trying” to get answers. I gave up.
“This treatment of the press isn’t unfair on journalists. It is unfair on the people who read and watch our content; the same people, incidentally, whose vote decides whether or not these rather evasive politicians have this kind of power.”